A perfect Christmas gift

When I was a child, I used to listen to stories about how my dad and his mom would make candy. Divinities and fudge mostly. I have always loved the idea of making candy but found I had little talent for it.

Until now.

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Filed under American, Misc

Outrageous Fortune: Growing Up at Leeds Castle by Anthony Russell

51w58jivQ3LI’m not sure where my fondness for the British aristocracy comes from. Maybe it’s just from too much of reading fairy tales.

But many elements of Anthony Russell memoir feel like a fairy tale. He grew up in the famous Leeds Castle, which had been purchased and restored by his formidable grandmother, Lady Baillie. There were ceremonies for releasing baby ducks. There was a formal, rigid daily structure called the Castle Way, which in some ways reminds me of my own grandmother’s house. Every time I read this memoir (this being the 3rd), I am stuck by the overwhelming desire to make toast by the fire side and trot off to England to spend my Christmas.

Russell does acknowledge repeatedly that his upbringing was privileged and called that “dangerous” as it little prepared him for life outside the castle. His shyness, which was ignored by the adults at the Castle, made boarding schools a challenge. Nevertheless, he reflects positively on the experience overall. The ends in 2009, when he return to the castle which is now a museum. Talking with a former member of the staff, they reminisce fondly on the way life used to be.

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In need of comfort

It feels like coming back from Italy was the biggest mistake we possibly could have made. Like the universe is kicking us a bit for making such a foolish decision.

The heat in our house hasn’t been working for 9 of the last 15 days. Kick.
The entire backyard is covered in a thick blanket of leaves and two weekends wasn’t really enough to clean it up before they stop collecting greens. Kick.
Laundry and other household chores have fallen behind thanks to lethargy/cold. Kick.
It doesn’t feel like Christmas.

The only good thing is that I came back from the trip very inspired to explore Tuscan and Florentine cuisine more deeply. I’ve got high hopes for it as everything else I’ve made has been great so far (chestnut flour gnocchi and pappa al pomodoro). I’ve got plans for a panforte, baccalà, and fegatini (chicken liver pate) later this week.

When I was looking for a recipe for ribollita, it was hard to find something that felt quite right. Every restaurant and each cook has their own version of ribollita, much like many other Italian dishes. There is a general consensus on bread, kale, and beans. But differences in quality and consistency cover the board. I knew I wanted to be able to tell what was in the soup and that I like a little tomato in mine. Of course, you can adapt it to your own tastes.

Ribollita (Tuscan Bread Soup)
Adapted from many recipes and differences versions I have tried

3 tbsp olive oil, plus more for serving
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, diced
4-6 c water
1 bunch kale, stemmed and roughly chopped
14 oz can cannellini beans
1/4 c tomato puree
1/4 lb (110g) stale bread, cubed
Salt, to taste
Parmesan cheese, for serving

In a large pot, saute onions, garlic, and carrots in olive oil. Cook, stirring, until slightly softened.

Add enough water to cover vegetables and kale to the pot. Bring to a simmer and cook until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Add beans, tomato puree, and bread. Continue cooking on low heat until bread is very soft, about 15 minutes. If soup is becoming too thick, add additional water.

Season with salt to taste. Serve topped with olive oil and Parmesan cheese.

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Filed under Italian, Soups & Stews, Vegetarian

A Room with a View

We are just returned from a lovely vacation in Florence. I miss Vacationland a lot. But at least I have a lot of inspiration for my artwork and my cooking.

As you can expect, every meal we had was great. Now I’d like to make a hazelnut cake and an almond cake called torta delizia alle mandorle. Pappa al pomodoro and ribollita. Fegatini (chicken liver pate) and various other crostini.

Instead, I have been unpacking for several hours and our heating won’t turn on. Hopefully this week I’ll be able to send something your way. Enjoy the pictures in the meantime.

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Grilled fish tacos

I feel like this was my summer of tacos. There were pulled pork tacos. tacos filled with bits of leftover steak. Veggie tacos. Yet this recipe was late to the party but well worth it. I can’t remember how I happened upon it.

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Filed under Meat & Fish

Baked cauliflower, Indian style

I have long dreamt of a cauliflower curry of this magnitude. Tender cauliflower holding a sauce that tasted like real Indian food, while still being achievable in my kitchen. I think the only non-standard ingredient is the garam masala.

However, if you can find an Indian market (or the world cuisine aisle of your local Wegmans) you can get a huge pouch for only a few dollars ($3.49 for 7 oz at mine).

I served it with bread but I’m sure naan would be even better. I didn’t make any sides and we demolished most of a small cauliflower between the two of us. There was just enough for me to pack for lunch the next day. Everyone who smelt it was jealous!

I could see serving this as a vegetarian main (especially if using a bigger cauliflower). Maybe with a cucumber raita on the side. It’s not spicy, just fragrant. The ginger gives is a fair bit of kick. If you wanted to make it spicy, you should feel free to do so and get back to me on the results!

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Filed under Indian, Vegetable, Vegetarian

Veggie shashuka

I like the idea of summer squash. They are so pretty. They are similar to zucchini. They have a lot going for them.

And yet, whenever I buy summer squash, I always feel at a loss for what to do with them. They lack zucchini’s flavor. They don’t have the meatiness of fall squashes. 

But in this recipe, they just work! 

Mr. F, who is always hungry after vegetarian meals, was satisfied and happy. The leftover “sauce” was reused to top pasta, which was also delicious. 

I’ve simiplied the recipe a lot from the original because I don’t keep some of those ingredients around and I don’t like that many steps for my weeknight dinners. All in all, this dish is a winner!

Summer Squash Shashuka

Adapted from The Kitchn

 2 lb summer squash

1 tbsp salt

olive oil

1 small onion, sliced in half moons

2 garlic, minced

14 oz crushed tomatoes

4 eggs

In a food processor, grate summer squash. Squeeze as much moisture as you can from each handful and transfer to a large sauté pan.

After all the squash is squished dry, add olive oil, garlic, salt, and tomatoes. Stir to combine. Turn heat on to medium. Cook until squash is tender, about 10 minutes. Season to taste.

Smooth mixture out evenly in sauté pan. Make 4 divots and crack an egg into each. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place a lid on the pan and cook about 10 minutes. Egg whites will be set but yolks will still be soft. Serve with lots of crusty bread!

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Filed under Breakfast, Eggs, Italian, Moroccan, Vegetable